A team of Virginia Tech students have converted the banana split into what they call "Banana Splitters," the new confection which is packaged as nine individual pieces - three of each flavour - in a sleeve, six sleeves in a package to be available next to the ice cream and other frozen goodies.
In fact, the students are looking forward to see their award-winning decadent dessert available from fast-food restaurants, nine pieces to be packaged in a banana-shaped container.
The 13-member Virginia Tech Food Science and Technology Product Development Team created Banana Splitters as their entry in the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Product Development Competition, sponsored by Mars Inc., and was one of six finalist teams to receive a travel grant to the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo in New Orleans in June.
"We wanted a product that would meet current market trend, including convenience, bite-sized pieces, and portion control. We also wanted the product to stand out in the market, which is why we designed it to have a full serving of fruit per serving," said Sabrina Hannah of Elverson, Pa., a Ph.D. candidate in food science and technology.
"We briefly considered slices of cream cheese packaged in an edible film. But people spread different thicknesses of cream cheese on their bagels," said John Koontz of Falls Church, Va., a recent Ph.D. graduate in food science and technology.
Also, the Banana Splitters were wildly popular in the students' product development class, said Denise Gardner of Reading, Pa., a master's degree student in food science and technology. "And we thought this was more fun," she admitted.
According to Govindaraj Dev Kumar of Chennai, India, a master's degree student in food science and technology, non-fat yogurt is a healthy alternative to ice cream.
"The judges liked that there are two different ways to sell it," he said.
A sensory panel gave this product an average rating of 7.6 on a scale of 9. "That is between 'likes moderately' and 'likes very much'," said Annie Aigster of Valencia, Venezuela, a Ph.D. candidate in human nutrition, foods, and exercise.
The researchers prepared the product in pilot plant conditions using the food processing lab, dairy processing lab, and sensory kitchen of Virginia Tech's Department of Food Science and Technology.
They purchased the bananas locally, using colour as an indicator of ripeness and selecting for size and shape. Following slicing and coring, they solved the issue of bananas' tendency to brown with a solution of dextrose, ascorbic acid, and citric acid. The slices were then flash frozen and the frozen yogurt was piped into the centres of the slices.
There was discussion and some enjoyable testing to determine what kind of chocolate would be used - thick, thin; dark, milk. A product with the proper thickness was selected from commercial providers and a decision was made to go with the dark chocolate because it is currently popular.
The students also designed the scale up to a commercial manufacturer. Changes from the pilot-level process would include measuring sugar content to determine ripeness, for instance. And banana peels, size-rejected slices, and cores could be used in extracts and purees.
The team's market study found that the delicious, convenient treat with a healthy twist appeals to people of all ages.